I guess the main idea with a petrarchan sonnet is that the speaker is debating something internally. So the first eight lines are called the "octave," which rhyme abba abba, and which show one viewpoint of a topic. Then the ninth line is called the "volta" which is the turning point. The last six lines collectively are called the "sestet" which can either rhyme cde cde (which I chose) or ccd ccd, or cdc cdc.
For the first part of exercise 19, Fry suggested I write a Petrarchan sonnet about voting. In the octave I was to talk about how lazy and uninterested voters are, and then in the sestet I was to decide that apathy is probably the best response. This isn't exactly how I feel about voting, but here's what I came up with just the same:
In 2012 the time will come to vote,
But many voters will not heed the call
Of TV ads and signs in yards and all
The names of candidates they've learned by rote.
These lazy people, to their friends will gloat,
That they're too busy shopping at the mall
To visit a polling station booth or stall,
As if they were protected by a moat.
Maybe there's a reason for this 'tude.
It's easy to be sick of politics
In modern times of mudslinging and lies.
At first the candidate's an awesome dude,
But post election, promises are nix
And trust that took so long to build, then dies.
For the second part of exercise 19, I was to write a Shakespearean sonnet, which is formed a little differently. There are three quatrains, which rhyme abab, cdcd, efef and then there is a couplet to wrap it up rhymed gg. Again the topic was voting, but this time I was to spend the first four lines talking about the apathy of voters, the middle four giving complaint against this fact, the last four admitting my own apathy and then the couplet saying it makes no difference anyway. Again, these aren't necessarily my views, but it helped me to have a clear idea of what I had to write. Here's mine, with apologies to Shakespeare!
On voting day, a lot of people don't
Attempt to use their democratic right.
It's not because they can't it's 'cause they won't.
For politics, they've given up the fight.
Come on, you folks! Let's get out there and vote!
Help steer the course our country's set upon.
It takes all hands to keep this ship afloat.
It does no good to stay at home and yawn.
I know that politics can be depressing,
Corruption spreading up and down the hill.
And often, casting votes can feel like guessing,
Who knows if yours will pass the proper bill.
I know the voting system needs improving.
Just hope there are no plans for its removing!
The last section of the book is devoted to some pretty weird poetic forms, including pattern poems, which were the subject of exercise 20, which was the last one in the book! I was to write two, one about the letter "I" (with serifs) and one in the shape of a cross. Here's what they look like:
The Magnetic Fields
Which was called "I"
When I was a child growing up
In Seattle, so I don't know a thing
About Christianity or religion.
The very last thing I had to do was to write a rhyming acrostic verse, spelling out my name with the first letters of each line.
After many months of struggle
Lines have finally all been written
Elevated, I hope, above a poet muggle.
Certainly, by the poet bug, I've been bitten!
Well, that last poem says it all. It took me two years to get through this book, and it was one of the most challenging things I have ever read, but I'm glad I did it. Honestly, it felt like taking a really good college course about poetry. So if you'd like to learn more, I highly recommend The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry.
I'm still working my way through The Best of Ogden Nash (and still loving it) and I guess I'll try to keep posting some poetry in here on the weekends. It'll be fun to dive back into it, armed with new knowledge!